The president of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offers advice on how to prepare for an end-of-life service.
Randy Anderson, CFSP, CCO
President, National Funeral Directors Association
When a loved one passes away, the grief can be overwhelming for family and friends. Having your affairs in order can ease the financial and emotional burden for those you leave behind.
“Most funeral homes offer a preplanning and prepayment program,” said Randy Anderson, CFSP, CCO, owner of Radney Funeral Home in Alexander City, Alabama. “It’s highly advisable to prearrange and even prepay for one’s own funeral. Recording one’s wishes for their funeral takes the guesswork out of planning for a family. It also relieves some of the stress and anxiety when this is done ahead of time.
“Most, but not all, funeral homes guarantee the current price of a funeral, if it’s prepaid. This removes the fear of inflationary increases for the future.”
A significant cost
According to Anderson, the national average for a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,848.
“The next of kin of the deceased normally is responsible for paying; however, there may be other family members who assume that obligation.
“Of course, preplanning and prepaying is a good option in preparing for the cost of the funeral. One may also have life insurance to cover expenses. Some choose to start an annuity or trust.”
If a person is in advanced age or infirmed and not expected to live much longer, a life insurance purchase would not be an option.
“As the end of a loved one’s life nears, the family may want to meet with the funeral director, make service plans and choose merchandise to determine the cost of the funeral and how much money they should expect to spend.”
Anderson says some families might want to consider crowdfunding to manage costs, although he’s never seen results by doing so.
“There are companies who can provide funding to families to pay for funerals when the need arises. Some funeral homes have agreements with those companies and can assist in the application for those funds.”
Delaying the inevitable
Unfortunately, many people still don’t preplan or pay in advance for their funerals.
“It’s sometimes very stressful for families to have to make those decisions when death has occurred,” Anderson points out. “We’ve found there are about 125 things that must be done at the death of a loved one. If the funeral is planned and merchandise has been chosen, it relieves so much stress from the family.”
“I think many people fail to preplan because it’s an admission they’re not going to live forever. Death is not a topic they want to address,” Anderson said.
Put it in writing
Anderson encourages everyone to record their wishes for their funeral.
“This may seem difficult, but NFDA has produced a website, Remeberingalife.com, that helps people make their plans. It gives helpful ideas and opportunities to help plan a meaningful end-of-life service,” Anderson said.
He notes that a funeral director is also an excellent resource when it comes to preplanning.
Part of the healing process
At a meaningful service, attendees will likely cry, laugh, and remember special contact with the deceased.
The ceremony should also have an element of encouragement for mourners as they begin traveling a different path, continuing their journey without the one they loved. The minister or celebrant should take responsibility for helping point them in the right direction.
Anderson believes preplanning gives survivors the confidence to think of their loved one as they want to be remembered. He says a funeral or memorial service gives families the opportunity to lean on each other during an extremely difficult time.
“Having public gatherings, visitations, wakes and services increases the number of people who will share in the grief. Grief shared is grief diminished. This is an important time for gathering and celebrating the life of the deceased loved one.”